OXFORD – On a recent rainy Friday night, the lounge at Oxfords Casual Dining was a welcoming place. The bar was mostly full, but there was enough space for us to sit and order a drink while waiting for a table. While the lounge is dimly lit, the bottles and glasses and brushed copper bar just sparkled. The beers on tap were Wachusetts Blueberry and Blue Moon Belgian. The featured drinks included mudslides and mango mai tais. Oxfords has a good wine selection as well, and will package up unfinished bottles to take home.
Our wait for a table was just 15 minutes. The dining room is attractive with dark wood paneling, gold colored walls, carpeted floor and colorful sconce lights. It's very well laid out, with half walls in the center, so that all the booths, upholstered benches, and tables are next to a wall, providing an nice element of privacy. No one is seated in the middle of a room.
Owner Paul Dadah, who's always ready to talk with his customers, told us that he's adopted a seasonal approach to menu planning. Previously they would make “anything you wanted but we just couldn't keep up with it.” Now there's a smaller, but still good, selection of old Oxfords favorites, Italian specialties, and sautes, augmented with a seasonal menu. Paul's Famous Meatloaf is still there for his devoted meatloaf lovers.
We started with a house salad ($4.00) made with fresh greens, red onion, green and red peppers, carrots, feta cheese, all tossed with homemade balsamic vinaigrette, giving it a good flavor. Other salads on the menu were a Caesar salad, Walnut Gorgonzola Salad and an Antipasto, each of which could be topped with beef tips, chicken breast, salmon, or shrimp.
I chose my entree from the Oxfords Favorite section of the menu: Lobster Cakes with Salmon ($16), which were homemade lobster cakes topped with pan-seared salmon. The lobster cakes were excellent, spiced just right with roasted red pepper tartar sauce.
Oxfords Favorites come with a choice of mashed potatoes, garlic mashed, or french fries and a veggie choice of beets, cole slaw, carrots, or squashes. I chose the garlic mashed, and received the biggest portion of potatoes of I've ever seen. Paul later explained that their motto is “you want to eat, we want to feed you,” and that concept translates into giant portions. He also told us they use especially large “bull potatoes,” giant russet potatoes he once saw in a Minnesota steakhouse and found were much quicker and easier to peel.
My dining partner tried one of Oxfords popular sautes: Chicken Marsala ($15), described as chicken breast sauteed with sliced mushrooms, fresh garlic and seasonings, finished with Marsala wine. The portions here were large too, with two chicken breasts atop a mound of angel hair pasta, swimming in a very flavorful sauce. He called it “excellent.”
Other saute choices on the menu include Pasta and Vodka ($11), Chicken & Sausage Cacciatore ($15), and Chicken & Broccoli ($15).
Classic Italian specialties include Chicken Parmesan ($15), Veal Parmesan (17) and pasta with homemade meatballs ($10).
The May-August seasonal selections offer three appetizers and eight entrees, all with interesting variations in the preparation. They include Eggplant, Tomato and Spinach Salad ($12), Cod with Herb Butter ($16), Seared Ahi ($18), Chargrilled Sirloin (21), and Teriyaki Pork Shanks ($16).
Paul Dadah and his wife Kristin bought Oxfords Casual Dining 18 years ago after three restaurants in that location failed in just five years. Paul was working for a motor oil distributor at the time, but he'd had plenty of restaurant experience in his life.
He recounted how he and his brother grew up working split shifts in Joe's Diner, which his father owned from 1953 to 1988. The diner was located in Auburn behind the now long-gone The Fair. The boys would work from four in the morning to noon, and then from three in the afternoon to eight at night. Those hours are not in Paul's vocabulary now, he said. Oxfords Casual Dining is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m., Thursday to Saturday from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m., and the lounge until 10:30 p.m. Reservations are accepted and take home trays serve up to 15 people.
The restaurant is located at 2 Millbury Blvd, Oxford, in a strip mall perpendicular to Rt. 12. It's a bit tricky to find. From Rt 395 take Exit 4B to Oxford Center, take a right onto Main Street (Rt. 12), go approximately one mile, and it's on your right. Phone 508-987-1567, www.oxfordscasualdining.com. Oxfords Casual Dining has a place on our list of destination restaurants, well worth a visit anytime; we enjoyed our rainy evening out.